Strong political change has caused ultra-Orthodox Jews to stage a mass protest in Israel.
An estimated 250,000 to 400,000 ultra-Orthodox Jews gathered for a mass prayer in Jerusalem on Sunday. They were protesting a bill expected to pass in a few weeks that would remove seminary students from military exemptions, Reuters reported March 2.
Men, women, children and leaders of ultra-Orthodox Jews made their presence known in Jerusalem as they stood against the new legislation being considered. Roads were blocked, police were out in force, and rabbis were praying over loudspeakers.
As the report points out, the mass protest is over an emotional issue in Israel. When Israeli Jewish men and women turn 18, most must serve in the military. The debate is over ultra-Orthodox Jews being exempt from such a law. Israel has excused the ultra-Orthodox Jews because the religious sect say the holy scriptures “is a foundation of Jewish life, that scholars have a right to devote themselves full time to the tradition, and that army service would deny them fulfillment of that religious edict,” according to the report.
Haredim is another term for ultra-Orthodox Jews. There are about eight million of them in Israel, roughly 10 percent of the nation. They tend to be a “poor social group” with no jobs or low-paying ones. Resentment has built against the Haredim for living off state benefits and donations while they do nothing to reciprocate that in their society. People there are tired of them “sponging” off the government that they refuse to help.
There are no ultra-Orthodox partners in Israel’s cabinet, which makes this bill possible. In the past it would have been a risky bill to pass since support needed came from the Haredim. Main coalition partners have pressured Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reform army exemptions for these Jews with the slogan, “sharing the burden.”
In an interesting note concluding the report, the bill would not be enacted for four years if passed. At that point a new coalition government will be in power and potentially could overturn the law.
Calling it an emotional issue is an understatement for hundreds of thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews to stage a mass protest in Israel. Will there be any real change in the law there?
Copyright © 2014 Heather Tooley
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